Revealed: how Saddam's German spy was trapped

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Only the breaking of an Iraqi code enabled the Western allies to unmask a spy at the heart of the German foreign ministry who had passed vital secrets to Saddam Hussein in the weeks after he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

In a new twist to the spy scandal exposed in Germany last week, General Wafiq al-Sammara'i, the former head of Iraqi military intelligence, revealed in an exclusive interview with the Independent on Sunday how an official at the German Foreign Ministry passed the allies' most secret documents to Baghdad.

German court records of Juergen Gietler's closed trial in 1991 show that he passed to the Iraqi military attache in Bonn a message from George Bush to Helmut Kohl, itemising the naval, air and ground forces being sent to the Gulf. "We knew about the dispatch of American armoured divisions and A-10 aircraft," says Gen al-Sammara'i.

Mr Gietler was arrested only a month after he started working for Iraq. "I am quite convinced they had broken our codes," said the former Iraqi spy chief, contradicting the official German explanation that they had discovered the spy through routine tapping of the phones of the Iraqi embassy in Bonn.

He also revealed that the US made an elaborate attempt to mislead Iraq about the direction of the counter-attack on Kuwait. Two months before it began, a US army sergeant, who said he was a messenger carrying top- secret documents between the allied HQ in Saudi Arabia and Washington, allowed Iraqi officials in Athens to copy a 1,000-page battle plan.

The plan showed that the allies would strike directly at Kuwait, rather than try, as eventually happened, to sweep around the Iraqi army's western flank.